Manifesto Notes, 1

Beginnings are not analytical; reflections are, and reflections come after the fact. To open by proposing to start at the beginning, then, would be pointless, in the first place because it would be impossible, and in the second because to do anything other than to open with the abstract would be to compromise one’s goal of starting with the beginning. One cannot ever start at the beginning, but every start is the beginning; one cannot avoid starting at the beginning.

An emotion, then.

I despise senior citizens. I hold an immutable, deep, and abiding distrust and suspicion of them in general. I work at a motel, answering phones and the like. Early one morning I got a call from one room, it was one ancient lady with quavering voice asking directions to the hospital.

Alarmed and eager to help, I asked, “Oh! Do you need an ambulance?”

The response was irritated and vague, impossible to interpret. “No, no.”

“Can I get you a cab, then?” My worry was not the less real because it was cultivated for my job’s sake.

Again the irritation. “I don’t want a cab!” the old bitch said, and hung up. I heard nothing more.

Until a few weeks ago, probably three months after the incident. I was passing the desk on my way to have a cup of coffee, it was the change of shift, all my workmates were there and my bosses. “Hey, Gerry,” called Tim, the senior clerk.

“Yes?” I asked.

“Do you remember a call from someone asking directions to the hospital? Early in the morning?”

The context was always a few days when someone asked me if I recalled this or that event at work; I cannot think of a situation where there has been a longer period. No connection.

“No,” I asked, “Why?”

“Well, we got a postcard from someone who says they stayed here and they called in the morning asking directions to the hospital and they said the desk clerk told them they had to get an ambulance.”

“Ah,” I said, not knowing what was appropriate. No connection, no guilt, what’s the point. I didn’t do it. In fact I felt relieved, since it was clear that they had been discussing the matter and had come to the consensus that while none of them was culpable, a Crime had ben committed.

Sharon tittered. “At the bottom they wrote ‘Would you please fire that desk clerk!’; it was an old lady in AARP.”

Still nothing. “Where’s the card,” I asked, interested, curious, involved but not involved, feeling that there was a point being made to me by those assembled judges but not getting the point. Most blameless am I.

“It’s in the office, that’s where it belongs,” says one boss, a friend who suddenly has a gruff demeanor. What, I think, is this? All eyes are upon me for the tribunal, I didn’t do anything, what’s it all about, why, Brent, are you so gruff, do you think I intended to tear up Exhibit A or something? This mention of job-loss has me all upset.

“No,” I say, “I don’t recall anything like that… ” And I didn’t! But there is nothing I can say!

Minutes later the event dawns on me, minutes too late to go back and say, yes, I recall having spoken about the hospital with an old lady; because it will sound like I am adjusting the truth to both admit involvement and exculpate myself at the same time. Sneaky, and their conclusion? Why doesn’t he admit to it, then? and perhaps promise not to do it again?

My friends, eyeing me! Work is a formal matter, yes, I know better than all of you assembled: none of you has spent your last dollar, not once in your entire easy lives; not one of you has been on the road with nothing, and with no one to call upon for aid. Above all the gravity of the situation is clear to me, yes! AARP complaints can mean bad business, and that too can threaten me directly. You fools!

But the real object of my ire was the lying elder. The invidious worm of a stupid old shit who would do something like that! What, menopause? What, a bad day at the races? And take it out on someone a thousand miles away because you have a moment’s power and influence? Your uncreative brain being too sterile with age to come up with cleverer, local persecutions, you must confine yourself to half-real events? Oh, painful death upon you! Cut off your blood money Social Security checks: I rage to think my FICA payments go out to stuff the debased mouths of these walking intestinal tracts, I would let you starve in the streets without a moment’s fleeting sense of shame, guilt, campassion. I hate you, and I will never forgive.

And so I was implicated, charged with an offense I didn’t commit but which I can never disprove; my trial was conducted in secret without my presence, the verdict handed down from on high with no appeals possible. All in the lies and calumny of someone I will never see again; all in the devolved mind of a scumbrained bag of bones that lived longer than was just. I offer up Kafka, who can take it with a grain of salt and a knowing, cynical smile. But as for me, I cannot brook being under the power of nameless, absurd enemies. Enemies, fine, but honest ones. The matter weighs heavily, I cannot ever forget. Telling it to this, the powerless court of public opinion, consoles, and it gives power to another project. Done.

Originally appeared in Inside Joke #22

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